Welcome to Joy Lab!: Welcome to the Joy Lab podcast, where we help you uncover and foster your most joyful self. Your hosts, Dr. Henry Emmons and Dr. Aimee Prasek, bring you the ideal mix of soulful and scientifically sound tools to spark your joy, even when it feels dark. When you're ready to experiment with more joy, combine this podcast with the full Joy Lab program over at JoyLab.coach
Henry: Hello. I am Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab
Aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. And as you may know, we are working through our podcourse. In this episode, Henry and I will be with you actually for the full time as we continue on with strategies to support sleep. And we're going to focus in this one on supplements to consider.
First, got to say, remember, it is important to check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement. With that said, we are going to talk about, the supplements kind of a cool way as they can be used to support three different concerns as they relate to sleep. So the first one, problems falling asleep.
Second one, staying asleep, problems staying asleep, and then lastly, problems with waking, like waking up at 4 a. m. and you're just ready to go, um, which might be great if you, I think like the Dalai Lama likes to say, goes to bed at 8, wakes up at 4, but if you're not 8 p. m., 4 o'clock is not the best time to wake up.
So those are the three areas that we'll focus on.
Henry: Well, I, that's fresh in my mind, Aimee, because just
Aimee: you wake up
Henry: this last night I woke up 4:30, but you
Aimee: I slept like crap last night, too, so I'm super excited.
Henry: Yeah. Okay. Well here, it's good that we're teaching people about sleep.
Aimee: You know, on that, let me just note. One, my sleep has improved dramatically through the strategies that we talked about. Two, one of the most important things, I think, Henry, that you have taught me is that it's okay to have a bad night of sleep. Like, that's one of the hardest things I think with sleep is that you get so frustrated because you're not sleeping. so to not be so frustrated that I'm not sleeping, funny enough, then I fall asleep. So
Henry: yeah, exactly, yeah. No, honestly, I think that's been one of the most helpful things for me too, is just not worrying about it quite so much, you know, I know I'm going to be all right the next day.
Aimee: yeah, with that said,
Henry: um, with that said,
yes, um, so, so it is worth noting that these three patterns of Trouble with sleep do line up to some extent with the three subtypes that we talked about in an earlier podcast, so This is not a hard and fast rule.
Don't, don't work too hard to try to force fit it But, but let me just kind of talk through how I think of it. So oftentimes falling asleep, initially, when you first go to bed, people who have trouble with that, it is because of anxiety, worry, thinking too much, can't shut your mind down, and that can line up with being imbalanced in the more anxious type, so that when that pattern gets thrown off, it's more likely that it will show up as trouble falling asleep initially. The second pattern, where people have trouble staying asleep, you know, let's say waking up sometime between two and four in the morning, even between one and four in the morning, that can be a sign of your whole system being a little bit overly revved up, a little, even a little bit agitated, if you will.
So it can line up to an extent with what we call the agitated subtype or, you know, just people getting a little bit too stressed and a little too maybe edgy, restless, and then if you've ever been someone with this middle of the night waking, you know what I'm talking about. The problem that your mind often has is that you can't stop ruminating.
You know, you just keep turning the same things over and over again in your mind. And then the third pattern, where you wake up too early, like sometime around 4 or just shortly after, you know, about two or three hours before you actually want to get up in the morning, that can line up with an imbalance in the, the third type, the more sluggish, pattern. Because it is so often a sign of one of two things, one is it can line up with what we often think of as depression, as clinical depression.
Often, early morning waking is a sign of that. And the second thing is that your stress system, your stress hormones, particularly cortisol in this instance, it begins to rise sometime around 4 a. m., and this is normal, just the normal day to day rhythmic pattern that the stress hormones have. And, typically, we wake up when it gets a little bit more elevated, kind of reaches that threshold that it starts to stir us into waking.
There's other chemicals involved with that too. But when the stress hormones are just elevated overall, and that whole 24 hour pattern has just been shifted upward, then it's not uncommon for it to get to a point, crossing that threshold a little bit too early in the morning, sometime often around 4 a. m.
So again, none of these are hard and fast rules, but if you're, if you recognize that it kind of fits with your pattern with your mind body type or with a particular imbalance, it's worth noting because the strategies to get it under control again can be a little bit different.
Aimee: Yeah, I love that. we're using the subtypes and, and these experiences as ways to tailor, because not sleeping well is not just one thing. It certainly takes shape in different ways and there's different reasons for why it takes shape, in that way. So before we start, just a reminder that you can head to the show notes for this episode to find lists of the supplements that we're talking about.
And a great way to support this podcast as well is to purchase from our partner store at Fullscript. So you can head to the show notes, find the link there. We highlight our favorite high quality supplements and we also have a special discount for you if you order through that link. So, and it helps keep this podcast alive.
So we're really grateful for that as well. So let's talk about troubles with falling asleep first, which, Henry, would you say this is the most common?
Henry: Yeah, I think it is the most common. It may not be the most vexing pattern, but it's probably the most common.
Aimee: Ooh, I like that. Here, I'll describe my vexing situation last night. I was tired. So I head to bed and then I start thinking about this dumb thing I said to my neighbor. And then I started thinking about, Oh, I bet that neighbor can smell our patio because our dog keeps peeing on it. And then, I'm sick of cleaning that up, which I reminded myself that I hadn't taken the laundry out of the washing machine, which got me a little agitated, because then that's going to smell in the basement, too.
Anyway, this whole thing just started cycling through none of it made sense.
No thread. But it kept me up. I couldn't fall asleep. So maybe then, you've had this experience as well, dear listeners. Where just, random thoughts just keep popping up in all sorts of different orders. And they just keep you up, none of which are maybe even important, some of which might be causing some stress.
Henry: Well, Aimee, I'm going to give you some free Therapy. I'm gonna go Bob Newhart on you here
Aimee: Just stop it.
Henry: just stop it!
Aimee: I knew it. Thanks, Bob.
Henry: Yes, just next time just tell your mind, just stop it! course telling your mind is just stop it doesn't work.
Aimee: It tends to fight back. Yeah. So sometimes need a little extra help. There we go. Let's dig into it.
Henry: I'm going to divide the kinds of supplements for falling asleep into two different categories because the other problem with falling asleep that we have not mentioned yet is just getting out of your bio rhythms, you know, your circadian rhythms, and that's really what melatonin is good for. So melatonin is probably the best known natural sleep aid.
It doesn't mean it's the most effective, it's just the best known. The most talked about. And, you know, I often even see physicians recommending this to their patients now from time to time. The good news about melatonin is that it is, I think, quite safe, has a very good track record for safety. People can use it long term, even with safety, although there might be reasons not to do that, which I will mention. But melatonin, if you get out of rhythm, which can happen distressingly quickly, you know, if you've ever experienced, uh, let's say a weekend where you were, really socially active, you stayed up late and then come, you know, Sunday night, you know, maybe it's just been a couple of nights and you just are not tired when you go to bed.
That's because it, it's so easy to push yourself out of sync, especially if you're pushing it forward. Very easy. And so to bring it back, melatonin is our body's natural way to do that. And sometimes it really does help give it a jump start with a little melatonin as a supplement. I actually like using melatonin in very small doses myself. Especially in the winter months when our biorhythms are harder to keep engaged. And I like taking just a half milligram to a milligram a lot earlier in the evenings. Even sometime around 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock just as a matter of course. But if you... If you're using it at bedtime because you're just not sleepy when you go to bed, then it might be best to take a higher dose, somewhere around two and a half to three milligrams.
And I really prefer using the sublingual, the kind that goes under your tongue, because it works a lot faster. So you don't have to plan ahead, you can wait until you go to bed and if you just, you can tell you are not going to sleep. Then you can put it under the tongue. It dissolves quickly. I find it helps to bite it to break it up and the little pieces and it dissolves even faster.
So then it should work within 15 to 20 minutes. So that can be great for getting back into rhythm. And it might have worked even, you know, what you were describing, last night, Aimee. I will sometimes just... I, in fact, I always keep sublingual melatonin at my bedside, and I'll sometimes just use it if, okay, my mind is going here, I can tell this is not
Aimee: Yep. The just stop it is actually, oh, just grab a
Henry: That's right, just grab the melatonin, and there you
Aimee: Short term, you're saying it's, it's sort of in that short term use category, mostly.
Henry: Yeah, it is, I think it's best to use short term. And the reason being, if you've ever done it for very long, you might not even be aware that melatonin is the problem, but it's not uncommon to wake up about three or four hours after taking melatonin because it kind of, it wears off and there's a little bit of a rebound. So it's a catch 22, but it can work really well with occasional use.
So the second type of supplement is something to consider maybe when you're in a... a stretch of anxious nights or not sleeping. So it's, it's happened more than just a single night, but it's been ongoing. And that's where you can use some things to really try and tamp down the anxiety level and also support just some mild sedation and falling asleep naturally.
So there's, there's a few ways to go about this. Um, I like to start with something very gentle and very simple, and there are some herbs, well known, long, long use in human history that can help us fall asleep. One of those is hops, which of course is used to make beer. You don't have to drink a beer to get hops.
You can, you can get it through a supplement form. And the second is, passion flower, which I think might be my favorite when anxiety is really at issue. Passionflower can be super helpful. Valerian Root, a lot of people are familiar with. Also, very well known, very safe to use, even in high doses.
A lot of people don't love Valerian Root because it smells so bad, but it's a really nice, gentle support for sleep. Personally, I like using products that combine several of these things in one because they they seem to be synergistic and a little more potent when you use them together. There are also a couple of amino acids that can be really helpful, particularly L-theanine, and I really like L-theanine for helping support sleep, particularly when anxiety is at issue.
So about a hundred milligrams, even 200 milligrams of L-theanine taken before bed. All of these things that I just mentioned are probably best used about an hour before bed rather than right at bedtime, because they take a little while to get working. And then the last thing I'll mention right now is CBD.
And I really like CBD for helping tone down anxiety related insomnia. I think it's helpful for sleep in its own right, just as a mild sedative, but it's also quite It's quite good at helping calm the stress system and the anxiety that's kind of driving the insomnia. And again, I think it's ideal to think about combining a few of these products into one.
Aimee: Yeah, I think there's some really interesting research coming out too on folks who do respond well to CBD having it earlier in the day as something that helps sleep later obviously. So, something that could be taken earlier, midday perhaps if, like you said, stress is one of the key factors of insomnia or sleep issues.
Henry: So I also really like using magnesium. And this might be a good time to shift into talking about Trouble staying asleep because it, magnesium, is a really good way to tone down the autonomic nervous system and keep the effect of the stress hormones at bay. So, people who are waking up in the middle of the night, actually anybody who's having trouble sleeping, I think magnesium is a good thing to add.
My favorite form of magnesium is the L-threonate, magnesium L-threonate. It's a little bit less well known and it's probably a little bit more expensive still because of a patent that, that someone has on it. But magnesium threonate gets through the blood brain barrier more easily, and so it's a little bit more conducive to working on the brain itself and calming it down.
I really like it for anxiety and I really like it for insomnia. And I think it's really helpful for that tendency to wake up and get kind of agitated or ruminating in the middle of the night. So I really like it for that. I also really like CBD and L-theanine for that problem of waking in the middle of the night.
And then another amino acid is called 5-HTP, 5 hydroxytryptophan, or you could just use L tryptophan, which is very similar. Some people even think L tryptophan is a little bit better for sleep, but both of those are considered serotonin precursors, tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan, which means the body uses them to make serotonin. And that can be helpful for sleep, reducing anxiety, and supporting mood. And I think at low doses, serotonin is pretty gentle as a way of calming down agitation.
Aimee: In the sleep workshop, Carolyn describes a recipe for sleep. And so if you're curious about that recipe for sleep, join us in the Resilient community for that description of those precursors of serotonin. Um, it's a nice little lesson on what you just described.
Henry: A recipe for serotonin.
Aimee: I love it.
There we go.
Henry: Well, let's talk then about the third pattern, where you tend to wake up too early in the morning, like I did this morning. Unfortunately, this might be the hardest of the three patterns to change through, either through medication or supplements, frankly. It's kind of hard to get at this. The, I think a way to look at this is to try to take some measures to really tone down the stress hormones and the effect that they have on you.
So this is a little bit of a maybe a longer term endeavor. Because if it's happening frequently and it's going on for a while, you know, you're going to get exhausted eventually, and you want to start working on it before it really becomes a problem for you. So, to tone down the stress hormones, there are some really nice herbal approaches that are very gentle, very tried and true.
I consider them to be quite safe, and again, like to use them in combination. But they're a group of herbs known as adaptogens. And as opposed to medicinal herbs, adaptogens are things that are are a little more geared towards kind of sustaining balance and wellbeing. They're not trying to fix a problem or change something so much as they're trying to help the body work the way it's supposed to.
And some of these are really designed to help support normal function of the stress system. So some of the examples for that are Ashwagandha, which is an Ayurvedic herb that I really love for this. You can take Ashwagandha really at any time of day day and it still might help to tone down the stress hormones. And it's not usually sedating if you take it during the day.
I also really like, Eleuthero, which is a form of ginseng. And it, there's another form of ginseng that can be a little bit stimulating, so you want to be sure you're taking the right kind. But, Ginseng is good and rhodiola can be really good at supporting the stress hormones. Again, I like to use them in combination, sometimes combined with some of those other herbal, anti anxiety agents that I mentioned earlier can be really good.
So, and then you can even find products that will combine this with L-theanine or add some CBD and L-theanine together. And I think maybe using two of those combination products together like a CBD L-theanine combined with maybe the adaptogen herbs or something that includes tryptophan or 5 HTP.
So those are some good things to get you started.
Aimee: Those are great. I love also, we'll pop in some of our favorite teas as well. I like, there's some great herbal teas to support sleep, noting some of those agents that you cited there, Henry. Um, and then just the ritual of like a hot beverage and a Cushy chair is a really wonderful thing to sort of ease your body into bed.
So, uh, we really hope that you found this discussion but also the lessons on sleep that we've explored, hope you found those helpful. Head to the show notes for more details on everything we've discussed.
So Before we move into the last two pieces of our lifestyle medicine section, we wanted to pop in some episodes on self compassion. So, compassion is the element that we'd be exploring this month. And it is just very fitting, I think, before we talk about exercise and nutrition.
Because those areas, I think, tend to recruit our worst critics. Um, we, absolutely think these areas are super important for wellbeing, evidence will support that, and when we approach them with a more self compassionate attitude, then that not only boosts our ability to create lasting change, but I think we approach these strategies in ways that can nourish us. We enjoy doing it instead of depleting us. Instead of with the rigidity that can sometimes come along with it. So we want to help you care for yourself so much that you want to move your body in ways that feel good, eat foods in ways that feel good and taste good, radically sensible approaches as Carolyn Denton, our favorite nutritionist might say. so over at the Resilient Community, remember you have that sleep workshop for more support. And join us over there if you haven't already. So, thanks for being with us, everyone. And we'll see you for the next episode.
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